USAF, Navy Link Up for Black Sea Training

U.S. Air Force jets and Navy ships on Aug. 2 held a joint training exercise in the Black Sea near Russia’s borders together for the second time in two weeks, aiming to fine-tune their collaboration in a potential conflict.

Four F-16s from the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy, refueled by KC-135s from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England, flew with an MQ-9 Reaper from the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group’s Detachment 2 hosted at Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland.

The aircraft linked up with the Navy’s USS Porter guided-missile destroyer and a P-8 Poseidon from Patrol Squadron VP-47. Video of the exercise showed F-16s flying low over the USS Porter.

Cmdr. Craig Trent, the Porter’s commanding officer, said in a release that the participants worked on battlefield awareness and directing forces around the area to improve their combat tactics together.

“This training enabled us to continue to build on our combined capability to quickly and effectively respond to any threats in the complex maritime environment,” Trent said.

The U.S. Navy contingent is in the Black Sea after participating in Exercise Sea Breeze, a 10-country regional event led by U.S. and Ukrainian forces that is now in its 20th year. Aviano F-16s, Mildenhall KC-135s and MC-130Js, the MQ-9, and the Porter have joined Romanian aircraft to practice combat ops and integration this time.

The exercises come as Russian aircraft have repeatedly sidled up to U.S. and other aircraft flown by partner nations over the Black Sea, including reported confrontations with a P-8 and RC-135 on July 30 and July 14.